What Every Woman Should Know About Female Sterilization

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on July 29, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Patricia Geraghty MSN, WHNP, FNP-BC on July 29, 2014

What Is Female Sterilization?

Female sterilization is a permanent procedure to prevent pregnancy. It works by blocking the fallopian tubes.

When couples choose not to have children, sterilization can be a good option. However, female sterilization is a slightly more complex and expensive procedure than male sterilization (vasectomy).

There are two main types of female sterilization: surgical and nonsurgical.

A surgical procedure is tubal ligation, in which the fallopian tubes are cut and/or sealed. It is sometimes referred to as “getting your tubes tied.”  The procedure is usually performed using laparoscopy. Laparoscopy is also known as minimally invasive surgery.

There are also nonsurgical methods of sterilization. These procedures use devices placed in the fallopian tubes to seal them. They do not require an incision and are inserted through the vagina and uterus.  

How Does Female Sterilization Work?

Blocking or sealing the fallopian tubes keeps the sperm from reaching the egg. Without fertilization of the egg, pregnancy cannot occur.

How is Female Sterilization Performed?

A doctor must perform your sterilization. Depending on the procedure, it can be performed in a doctor’s office or the hospital. Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss female sterilization and determine if it is the best birth control option for you.

Tubal Ligation

For a tubal ligation, you will need anesthesia. Your doctor will inflate your abdomen with gas and make a small incision to access your reproductive organs with the laparoscope. Then your fallopian tubes will be sealed. The doctor may do this by:  

  • cutting and folding the tubes
  • removing sections of the tubes
  • blocking the tubes with bands or clips

Some sterilization procedures require only one instrument and incision. Others require two. Discuss the procedure with your doctor in advance. 

Nonsurgical Sterilization

Currently there is one device used for nonsurgical female sterilization.

Essure consists of two small metal coils. One is inserted into each fallopian tube through the vagina and cervix. Eventually, scar tissue forms around the coils, blocking the tubes.

onsurgical sterilization is not effective right away. It can take up to three months before the scar tissue forms and blocks your fallopian tubes.

You will need to return to your doctor for a hysterosalpingography to see if the procedure was effective. This special type of X-ray uses dye to determine if your tubes are open.

How Effective is Female Sterilization?

Female sterilization is nearly 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. Surgical sterilization procedures are effective immediately. Implant procedures take up to three months to be effective.

What Are the Benefits of Female Sterilization?

For women who want effective and permanent birth control, female sterilization is a good option. The procedure does not affect:

  • hormones
  • menstruation
  • sexual activity

What Are the Disadvantages of Female Sterilization?

Female sterilization does not protect against sexually transmitted infections.

Because it is permanent, female sterilization is not a good option for women who may want to get pregnant in the future. Some tubal ligations may be reversible. However, reversals do not always work. Women should not count on the possibility of a reversal in the future. Nonsurgical sterilization is never reversible.

If there is any chance you may want a child in the future, sterilization is probably not the right choice for you. Talk to your doctor about other contraceptive options. IUDs may be a better choice for some women. They can be left in place for up to 10 years. However, removal of the IUD restores your fertility. Female sterilization does not help women who, in addition to birth control, want or need to manage menstrual cycle problems.

What Are the Risks of Female Sterilization?

There are certain risks involved in any medical procedure. Infection and bleeding are rare side effects of tubal ligation. For sterilization using inserts, there is a small chance that the implants could become dislodged or damage the uterus. Talk to your doctor about the risks of surgery before the procedure.

In rare cases, the tubes can spontaneously heal after sterilization. According to Planned Parenthood, if this occurs, there is a one-in-three chance that any pregnancy occurring after sterilization will be ectopic.

Ectopic pregnancies occur when the fetus implants in the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus. They are potentially very serious medical problems. If not caught in time, they can be life threatening

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